Workers rushed to complete a system of dams yesterday at one of the deadliest volcanos in Indonesia, fearing an eruption could send a wave of superheated water, rock and ash surging down its slopes.
Volcanologists have warned that Mount Kelud on densely populated Java island could be on the verge of a major eruption, with a dome of magma forming under its crater lake.
Cement dams up to 20m high and 6m thick have been under construction for several months to channel the possible surge from the lake away from residential areas.
"They want us to finish the dams as quickly as possible," said Wagimin, a worker who like many Indonesians uses one name.
If the volcano erupts while construction is under way, the workers have planned to rush to a nearby elevated road for safety, he said.
Authorities have attempted to evacuate tens of thousands of villagers from the danger zone since the mountain was put on high alert more than two weeks ago.
But many have refused to stay in government shelters and are continuing to watch over their fields and homes.
Volcanologist Umar Rosadi said tremors were continuing under Kelud's crater, and bursts of smoke and soaring temperatures in its crater lake indicated it could soon erupt.
In 1990, Mount Kelud spewed searing fumes and lava that killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds.
In 1919, a powerful explosion that reportedly could be heard hundreds of kilometers away killed at least 5,160.
Two more of Indonesia's approximately 100 active volcanoes also were emitting smoke, with one -- Anak Krakatoa, or "Child of Krakatoa," firing out red-hot stones and lava.
Indonesia is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location on the so-called "Ring of Fire" -- a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.